Fate of regional policing rests on humility

Not much has changed in the years since Victoria and Esquimalt initiated what they thought would be regional police amalgamation

Not much has changed in the years since Victoria and Esquimalt initiated what they thought would be regional police amalgamation, and the recent report by Jean Greatbatch and its subsequent acceptance as gospel by the Ministry of Justice has done little to end the current stalemate.

The Victoria Police Force will continue to serve the only municipality in B.C. that has been denied the right to decide who will patrol its streets.

There will be no debate, there are no alternatives; Minister Shirley Bond has made it abundantly clear that she could not care less about the will of Esquimalt’s duly elected mayor and council.

Hinting at problems to come, Esquimalt is casting doubt upon the information and recommendations presented in Greatbatch’s report. In a recent interview, Mayor Barb Desjardins rattled off at least a dozen ways in which she believes the report fails to present either an accurate picture of the situation to date or a clear process by which the current conflict can be resolved.

Unfortunately, Desjardins also says Esquimalt was never given a chance to present its concerns to the ministry.

“We felt that we should be able to respond to that report to clear up those inaccuracies before any decision was made, and that wasn’t permitted.”

Despite being forced to salvage what’s left of their relationship with the Victoria police — even after a recent decision to sign a contract with the RCMP — Esquimalt appears to be taking the loss in stride. Desjardins confirmed that the municipality would not be challenging the minster’s decision, opting instead to broker the best possible deal for its residents.

“We’re prepared to sit down and discuss things with the Victoria Police Department and the City of Victoria and begin looking at the potential for an agreement.”

Esquimalt’s demands — featuring a return to the community-level policing model lost in the years after amalgamation, an overhaul of VicPD’s funding model and reimbursement for money lost courting the RCMP — are steep, and the police board’s refusal to meet its funding partner halfway borders on pathological. While the final recommendations of the Greatbatch report attempt to breathe life into Victoria’s long-held dream of regional policing, it is the hubris or humility of VicPD and its board that will decide our fate. M

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